Bushfire season came early to Australia last year. But it was a longtime coming. Years of unending drought and a climate that’s changed means hotter and drier summers. The super dry conditions and expert advice ignored made for a perfect storm. Once the bushfires started it seemed they couldn’t be stopped.
Australia and the world have cried, despaired, donated and volunteered after seeing the non-stop pictures of the devastation on our TV’s and phones. Families have lost loved ones and many battled to save their family homes. We also despair for the future of our diverse and unique wildlife.
It is sometimes difficult to explain to others how our landscapes are part of our psyche. Breathtaking yet dangerous. Deceptively treacherous and unlike anywhere else on the planet. Much of our countryside bears the names of despair and loss from Downfall Creek, Useless Inlet, Dismal Swamp to Mount Misery. The 2019-2020 fires created a hole in our collective heart, that giving can only hope to heal.
State of the Nation
We can’t replace those lives lost, but a part of the collective grieving process must be to ‘do our bit’ to help those affected in the short and long term. If you haven’t heard the majority of impacted towns, motels, caravan parks, farm gates and attractions in these regions have re-opened. They’re waiting (and hoping) for your return and your much-needed dollars. Some operators untouched by fire never closed. But the holidaymakers and day trippers never came.
Many tourist spots around the country are usually booked a year ahead for Christmas school holidays. It’s their most profitable and busiest time of the year. Many caravan parks with glorious views are now empty when they normally throb with kids playing and barbecues sizzling. Remember for those without structural damage there will be no insurance.
Tourists are staying home
Cancellations by overseas visitors is cutting deeply into the livelihoods of Mum and Dad operators as well as the bigger players. Queensland Premier Palaszczuk persuaded President Trump to not urge Americans to postpone their trips to Australia. The big drawcords like the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays and Uluru were not impacted.
The federal government say airline bookings from the US are down 40%. The Australian Tourism Industry Council says cancelled bookings in towns unaffected by the bushfires are up 60% – causing losses up to A$1 billion. The Australian Tourism Export Council estimates the cost of lost international bookings at A$4.5 billion.
Especially for our overseas readers, Tourism Australia is updating information on the few areas subject to road closures or where caution might be required : http://bit.ly/2sJua34 It also lists the vast majority of Australian regions unaffected.
Here are just four regions in need of our holiday dollars and a feed of amazing selfies from happy holidaymakers across Insta and Facebook. It is vitally important to show Aussies and those overseas that many regions still have jaw dropping beaches, lush green hills and big clear skies. We need to visit, fill up at their petrol stations, buy their produce, eat at their restaurants and cafes, drink their wine and book a room or campsite.
Don’t forget these towns are also home to the bravest of brave – Firies. Now it’s our turn to step up and support them by supporting their communities.
Adelaide Hills South Australia
Over 25,000 hectares of the stunning Adelaide Hills wine region were lost in a fast moving fire in December. Some of our most loved labels lost precious vines and in some cases, wine and buildings. The South Australian Tourism (SATC) has just launched a recovery campaign for the regions devastated by bushfires in South Australia.
SATC Chief Executive Rodney Harrex said. “ Help them out, #BookThemOut is a strong message that the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island remain amazing, unique holiday destinations with incredible consumer experiences and these regions need tourism to thrive and survive. Tourists can play a big part in helping these regions get back on their feet by sharing their experiences on social networks”.
This weekend, the annual Crush Festival is not only going ahead, the organisers are hoping it will be the biggest and best yet. South Australians and interstate wine lovers can book accommodation directly with the motels, hotels and guest houses: and if you can’t make it this weekend don’t forget to #drinkadelaidehills and #buydirect. January 25 and 26.
Or if you live in Sydney, more than 16 Adelaide Hills wineries will be serving up their best drops at this ‘Shout Out to the Hills’ event on February 2 at One Penny Red.
The scenes from Mallacoota were nothing short of cataclysmic. However, much of Gippsland has not been directly impacted with attractions and tourism businesses ready and waiting to welcome visitors.
Most natural attractions in East and Central Gippsland remain untouched and the region is now experiencing idyllic summer beach weather that’s great for short stays and extended breaks.
“East and Central Gippsland tourism businesses have been hit hard by the effects of the bushfires,” says CEO of Destination Gippsland Terry Robinson.
“We would like to put Gippsland, particularly East Gippsland at the top of minds for travellers looking for a holiday for the remainder of summer and into autumn and winter,” Mr Robinson said.
“This week we launched our ‘Show your love for East Gippsland’ campaign offering ways for people to find information about coming back to East Gippsland”. Find your perfect road trip or next holiday in East Gippsland
Shoalhaven towns and villages are open for business. National Parks remain closed for the moment but the Shoalhaven sadly has plenty of vacancies during what is normally their busiest season. High-end operators like Bannisters and Paperbark Camp who are normally booked 6 months in advance have vacancies too.
Shoalhaven needs visitors to help rejuvenate the towns, economies and spirits. Sydneysiders and Canberrans are especially invited to come back and spend.
You can build an itinerary, book accommodation direct, download a visitor guide and check out the wineries all one site. Go to Shoalhaven Rejuvenate for the most up-to-date information and for inspiration go to @visitshoalhaven Facebook page and Instagram account.
Granite Belt Queensland
Queensland’s Granite Belt is fighting back after fire and long-term drought and the best way to help is to visit, drink, eat and stay. With the annual Apple and Grape Harvest Festival on 28 February-March 8 -there’s never been a better time to book.
“Crushing it, literally since 1966, we really want to enter this new decade with a record number of visitors to Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt,” explained Festival President, Max Hunter. “We’re calling on the residents, farmers, growers and local business owners to invite their friends, families, customers and mates to come and join us for the 2020 Apple & Grape Harvest Festival.”
All of Queensland’s apples are grown on the Granite Belt and more than 60% of Queensland’s wine production happens there as well as stunning produce from stone fruit to strawberries and cheese to jam.
With an elevation of 1,000m, it’s one of the few locations where sometimes snow falls in Queensland during winter!
There’s over 50 cellar doors ready to show you how good Granite Belt wine can be with some outstanding European varietals that thrive in the warm Queensland conditions. More also on Facebook
Other ways to help
Some other sites to visit for up-to-date info and most importantly how you can help:
For Foodies – take a look at Empty Esky
For the music lovers -There is a FREE bushfire relief concert – Play It Forward – on Sunday 26 January at Hindmarsh Park, Kiama.
And for absolutely everybody – Road Trip for Good
So get involved in initiatives like #cookforthebush @spendwiththem @stayinthe bush on Instagram and support whatever way you can. Don’t holiday overseas this year. Go bush instead. Do more than pledge a visit – make a booking and if you can pay now – they’ll love you for it. The message is simple – pick your hashtag and support small business and local jobs. Australia Day is a great place to start.